How IAF Rescued 22 European Trekkers and an Israeli Mountaineer Stranded in Ladakh


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The Indian Air Force (IAF) officials in Leh showed immense courage and took extreme risks last week when they rescued a group of 21 British trekkers, a French woman, and an Israeli mountaineer, who were stranded in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. This is how.

Amid deteriorating weather conditions and increasing turbulence, The Indian Air Force (IAF) station at Leh received a message at around 4pm on Thursday, requesting emergency rescue of a group of British citizens, who were stranded in the Markha valley.

Markha valley is located in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region and due to continuous rainfall since last Sunday, all major rivers here were flowing above the danger mark; cutting off telephone and road connections in most places.

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Picture for representation only. Source: Wikimedia 

Just 45 minutes after the message, two IAF helicopters took off for the rescue mission. They braved the turbulence and strong winds to land in the rocky area, rescuing 10 of the 21 trekkers, some of whom were complaining of breathing problems as well. The remaining 11 people, along with another stranded trekker – a French woman – were rescued on Friday. The woman was severely injured and was rushed to a hospital in Leh.

“Braving adverse weather, IAF helicopters from Leh rescued 21 British Nationals and 1 French national on August 6 and 7 in a challenging casualty evacuation from high altitude in Ladakh,” said Defence spokesman at Army’s Northern Command Col S D Goswami.

The two helicopters belonged to Siachen Pioneers, the premier IAF helicopter unit in Leh and were led by Commanding Officer Wing Commander B S Sehrawat with Flight Lieutenant Cirag, and Wing Commander K S Negi with Squadron Leader V Chauhan.

The exact location of the trekkers was not known, which made the search and landing all the more difficult. The trekkers were located after about 10 minutes of search, near Thinlespa village on the bank of a river. Landing here was very challenging for the officials because of the perilous terrain and a vertical slope, along with the bad weather condition, turbulence, winds, and the nearing sunset. It was dangerous as well because choppers skid even on a slight contact with snow due to the steep slopes.

They had to land on a very narrow clearing near the camp, finally rescuing the trekkers. Two sets of two Cheetah helicopters rescued the remaining people on Friday.

Picture for representation only. Source: Wikimedia 

On Sunday, a few days after this operation, there was another accident in Ladakh itself, in which an Israeli mountaineer fell off the summit of the 20,182 high Stok Kangri Mountain. He was badly injured and unconscious when rescued from an elevation of 20,000 feet. This operation was again undertaken by two helicopters of the Siachen Pioneers. While his condition is critical, he has been admitted into the Sonam Norbu hospital of Leh.

These IAF officials fought extremely rough weathers and took immense risks to make sure that everyone was rescued on time. We applaud their bravery.

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